Softball does it for Sparks, sweeps Erskine to win 15th straight

Softball does it for Sparks, sweeps Erskine to win 15th straight

DUE WEST, S.C. -  Playing just 12 hours after legendary Carson-Newman coach Ken Sparks passed away, Carson-Newman softball (29-7) dedicated a sweep of Erskine (10-20) to him Wednesday afternoon at the Erskine Softball Complex.

Sparks hired head softball coach Vickee Kazee-Hollifield to start the softball program 32 years ago.

"Ken was smiling down on us from above today," Kazee-Hollifield said. "Hopefully as we played today and continue through, people see something a little different in us as we play to honor him and thus, honor Jesus Christ.  What an awesome responsibility we have every single day to get to go out and do that."

Carson-Newman won game one 4-0 before taking the nightcap 4-1.  The Eagles have now won 15 straight games, tied for the eighth best winning streak in school history.  The school record was set by the 1991 team, which won 26 consecutive games.

Pitching set the tone for the day for the Eagles.  Allison Webster (Charlestown, Ind.) and Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) combined to strike out 16 batters on the day. 

Game one: Carson-Newman 4, Erskine 0

Carson-Newman grabbed the lead in the second inning with help from an Erskine miscue.  KaraLynne Levi (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) led off the frame and got hit by a pitch.  Then, Lacie Rinus (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) delivered a base hit through the left side of the infield. The Fleet's leftfielder misplayed it, allowing Levi to score. 

The Eagles tacked on another run in the frame with an Ashlyn Cooper (Friendsville, Tenn.) single to center that scored Rinus.

The Eagles padded their lead in the fourth and seventh innings. 

Katie Pritchett (Ringgold, Ga.) cranked the first pitch she saw over the wall in leftfield to extend the lead to 3-0 in the fourth. 

In the seventh, Kristen Toppel (Roanoke, Va.) came through with an RBI single to left that scored Abby Fiessinger (Benton, Ky.) and set the final margin at 4-0. 

Rinus grabbed the win to improve to 15-3 on the year, hurling her seventh shutout in the process. She allowed four hits and only saw base runner make it into scoring position. She walked one and struck out seven. 

Sydney Davis got the start and took the loss for Erskine to fall to 2-2.  She worked the first four innings, gave up four hits and three runs. Samantha Schmidt worked 2.2 innings of shutouts, relief work before Sheridan Butcher worked the final third of an inning, allowing two hits and the final run to score. 

Game two: Carson-Newman 4, Erskine 1

It took until the third inning, but Carson-Newman's offense quickly found a groove to hang a crooked number in game two. 

The Eagles loaded the bases with one out thanks to a Fiessinger single down the left field line sandwiched around a pair of hit batters in Allison Webster (Charlestown, Ind.) and Taylor Scott (Huntington, W.Va.). 

Levi delivered a clutch plate appearance by driving in Webster with a sacrifice fly to left.

Rinus then came to the plate and cleared the bases with a two-out, two-run double to the right center field alleyway.  A pair of wild pitches then brought Rinus in to set the Eagles' lead at 4-0. 

The Fleet got a run back the next half inning.  After a two-out hit batter, Brittany Reynolds squeezed triple down the left field line to pull the Fleet within three runs. 

Webster worked out of a couple jams to preserve the win. The Fleet had runners on second and third in both the fourth and sixth innings with two out, but Webster induced groundouts each time to protect the lead. 

The senior struck out a season-high nine to improve to 14-4 on the year.  She gave up five hits and the one run.  Webster walked two. 

Candace Fitch took the loss for Erskine to fall to 4-5.  She surrendered three hits and four runs in a 2.2-inning start.  Schmidt tossed the final 4.1 innings, shutting the Eagles out and surrendering three hits. 

The Eagles return home and get back into South Atlantic Conference play Saturday against Newberry at 1 p.m. Coverage of the doubleheader will be available on the Eagle Sports Network.